Creativity, Plans and Projects

December 16, 2013

Tweens with Tools on CP24 Tuesday December 17!

This week we launched 5 new kids' DIY videos and tomorrow morning I'm going to be meeting 10 tweens at Ryerson Public School in downtown Toronto at 6 in the morning to spend a few hours on CP24's Live Eye building some really cool projects from our new season of Lowe's Family Fun Projects.  Hope you'll join us for the Live Eye!

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - Tween Season

December 10, 2013

Upcycling - ideas to spike your creativity

If you're the type of person who gets fidgety while riding in the passenger seat of a car for prolonged periods of, say, 5-10 minutes, you may need to work with your hands to modulate your nervous energy. 

Crocheting bird feeders out of 40-pound test fishing line is satisfying and productive. Whittling is an effective way to build up your supply of tinder for the winter, and the pile of wood shavings under your feet will keep your toes warm on long winter drives.

Or you can turn to your smartphone for solace and revel in arty/crafty/hacky/buildy project tutorials and start plotting your next DIY attempt.  

If you're naturally frugal with a sideways imagination you might enjoy the incredible range of human ingenuity I've collected in my Upcycling board on Pinterest.  

Who wouldn't want to make a combination candle/TP holder from scrap lumber and steel pipe?

Upcycled toilet paper holder

Or make a bench from an old bed headboard/footboard...

Upcycled bench from bed headboard

Or build a side table out of cut-offs...

Stylish-diy-stools-made-of-wood-scraps-1

Is there any human who doesn't like to make new stuff out of old stuff?  I haven't met one yet.

November 12, 2013

Christmas Tree Alternatives - why go traditional when your tree can scream quirkiness?

Things change in an average life and for some of us, that means hanging on to time-honoured traditions, like our Christmas tree style, with renewed tenacity. For others, it means jettisoning the familiar in an effort to redefine ourselves and acknowledge change.  For the latter group, here are a few suggestions for kicking up the festive while maximizing the restive. 

A driftwood Christmas tree...

 

Driftwood tree
http://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/111943107/tree-decoration-driftwood?ref=sr_gallery_10&ga_search_query=christmas+tree&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all&ga_facet=christmas+tree


 

A homemade scrapwood Christmas tree...

 

Scrapwood tree
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/woodwoolstool/5279640941/


 

A wall Christmas tree made from treasured ornaments...

 

Ornament wall tree
Source: http://nicety.livejournal.com/1013907.html


 

Another wall tree...

 

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Source: http://weheartit.com/entry/37853446

 

A cardboard Christmas tree...

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And of course, you can always create a DIY tree with used spindles, although one of my readers complained last year that it was god-awful and 'what was I thinking?'.  Of course, if you're a died-in-the-wool non-traditionalist, you're used to hearing that.  

What about you?  Any searingly unique tree installations to share?

October 16, 2013

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - Tween Projects

Tweens are hugely creative and we've been having a blast shooting new episodes featuring their designs - here are a few:

Zoe (12) and her swinging treehouse lounger

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - treehouse swinging bed

Ella (9) and her climbing net

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - climbing net

Lucas and Kevin (11) with the chalkboard desk they built (steel pipe base)

Lowe's Family Fun Projects - chalkboard desk with steel base

We'll be posting tween episodes on Lowe's Canada in time for the Christmas break - check out our other kids' projects (ages 3+) if you ever find yourself stuck indoors with rowdy kids!   

February 08, 2013

How to make a tinned picture frame

This week's free ToolGirl How-to video gives you a billion options for bone-easy handmade gifts.  You'll learn to frame any two-dimensional item using inexpensive materials and a soldering iron...

How To Make A Tinned Picture Frame  - step by step instructions

February 01, 2013

Got the winter blues? Let your fingers do the therapy!

 

the plight of un-busy hands
Photo credit: chris@APL via Flickr

 

If this crisp cold snap is making you frantic and testy, your hands can calm you down and put you in The Zone where time ceases to exist, all problems turn to vapor, and Winter is just a word that applies to some other part of the world. Here's my curated list of places to find craft instruction online.

Now, if you want a truly in-depth course from a world-class instructor at a fraction of the cost ($20-$40) you'd pay to take the course in person, here's a closer look at my favourite online learning resource, Craftsy.com: (Correction to article: Craftsy won't be offering 'food tech' in 2013, but they will be offering food and cooking courses)

Craftsy offers fantastic classes that show you in REAL time (not fast-forward-big-reveal TV style) how to actually DO something.  Grab a cup of coffee and peruse your options for learning how to quilt, weave, sew, crochet, knit, decorate cakes, cook, garden, and even re-finish furniture. TIP: When you're scrolling through Craftsy's Featured Classes, you can click on any of the Free Mini-Classes for a taste of the instructor's style and content.  

If you don't have a local independent yarn store or craft retailer that offers classes, Craftsy.com is an amazing virtual resource.  You can study anytime, 24/7, talk to the instructor and/or fellow class-mates while the lesson is in progress, record personal notes onscreen, and instantly repeat the last 30 seconds of video if you missed something.  

Have fun!

P.S. I'm enrolled in two courses (so far) if you want to join me - Scrap Quilting and From Drab to Fab (upcycling furniture).  

Here are some of my classmates' furniture projects from our Drab to Fab course...cool eh?

Projects from learners

 

 

 

January 23, 2013

The Joy of Pyrography

Here's a classic for all lovers of wood.  Try not to be dissuaded by the fact that I can barely pronounce the word 'pyrography'.  

December 21, 2012

Turning old wool sweaters into felt

 

 

 

Tea cozy from felted sweaters
A bobble-headed tea cozy made from a felted cardigan


 

Felted wool blanket
Felted blanket in progress


 

Felt is my new BFF - it's cuddly, uncomplaining and easy to make, plus you can form it into endless cool projects.  

The steps are fast and simple.  Take a pile of wool sweaters, scarves and mitts, wash them a couple of times in the washing machine so they're good and matted, then cut them up into strips, shapes or blocks and reconstruct them into rugs, blankets, dog beds, soft sculpture, toys and accessories. 

[For more details on the felting process, see this week's column, I Felt That.]

You can join pieces of felt together by hand sewing it, machine sewing with a zigzag stitch, or by using a crochet needle.  

 

Crocheting felted wool
Crocheted edge-joining

 

Making rosettes using felted strips
Strips cut on the bias and joined with zigzag stitch

 

Felted wool bowl
A bowl made from strips of felted wool

 

 

Felted wool bowl (from strips of bias-cut felted sweater)
Bowl detail (upside down) - the concave bottom is a natural result of the sewing process. When you keep tension on the outside edge of the strip while sewing, the piece naturally forms into a bowl shape.


 

 

Joining felted pieces with a sewing machine
Random pieces of felted wool joined with zig zag stitch over flannel backing

 

Felted wool cat toy
The cat's favourite new toy - a felted wool ruffled mouse (ruffle-making details below)

 

Ruffled tea cozy from felted sweater
it's easy to create ruffles from strips of felted wool


 

You can create fast ruffles from strips of felted wool using nothing more than a crochet needle.  You end up with a robust and rambunctious spiral that you can turn into a bobble/pompom (like the one on top of the tea cozy at the top of this post).  Here are the steps.

 

Creating ruffles with felted wool
Using a small crochet needle (I used .75 mm or 1/2), pierce the end of a strip of felted wool.

 

 

Creating ruffles with felted strips of wool
Pull a loop of yarn through (I use mohair because it's thin, strong and slippery - and I used a contrasting colour so you can see it better)

 

 

Creating ruffles with felted strips of wool
Next, pierce the felt along the top edge of the strip

 

 

Creating ruffles with strips of felted wool
Then move about an inch along and pierce it again (I'm left handed, so you'll need to reverse directions if you're right-handed)

 

 

Creating ruffles with felted wool strips
Keep going till you've got 3 or 4 'stitches' on your needle

 

 

Creating ruffles with strips of felted wool
Now hook a loop of yarn and drag it backwards through all 4 stitches, including the mohair loop you made back at the beginning

 

 

Creating ruffles from strips of felted wool
Draw the yarn through that first loop and snug the ruffle gently so the yarn is taut

 

 

Creating ruffles from strips of felted wool
Your ruffle is starting to take shape

 

 

Creating ruffles with strips of felted wool
To join strips, just pierce the top edge of the new strip as though it were part of the existing strip. Felted wool doesn't ravel, so the raw edges won't give you any grief


Creating a ruffle with felted wool strips
Just keep going now, adding strips and continuing to draw the yarn through clumps of 3 or 4 'stitches'. The ruffle will start to spiral on itself and create a staunch and flirty effect. When you're ready to end the ruffle, just draw the yarn through itself a couple of times to make a locking knot.

 

 

Creating a ruffle with corked wool
By the way, you can use the same process to create a ruffle using tubes of corking

 


Because felted wool doesn't ravel, you can cut it into fringe, too.  I'll keep posting pictures of the stuff I'm making for my last minute Christmas gifts.  Or if you can't wait to see mine, you can find a lot of cool ideas here.


Hobbit coasters - felted wool
Felted coasters that I subsequently needle-felted, inspired by the ironwork design on the inside of Hobbit doors

Felted sweaters turned into dog bed
Why is it that everything you make for a dog gets taken over by a cat?





 

 

October 02, 2012

How to appliqué almost anything on a candle

It's getting to be gifty season and I've got a hostess treat that's fast and classy depending on your definition of classy.  This quick video contains my hard-earned tips for festooning candles with microwave-pressed flowers (or hardware for a more manly version).  

September 18, 2012

Just got my 'nails' done for @HabitatToronto and @HomeShowsTO's #UpcycleChalllenge

ToolGirl Mag Ruffman's #UpcycleChallenge welded garden art
2,498 masonry nails, 3 wrenches, and 3 handsaw blades plus 11 pounds of MIG wire and 50 hours of welding!

The lovely folks at Habitat for Humanity Toronto and Toronto's Fall Home Show have come up with the most fantastic contest this year.  They asked 13 designer/DIYer/blogger types to go shopping at one of Toronto's 5 Habitat for Humanity ReStores (where they sell amazing building supplies and archtectural salvage for 50-80% less than retail).
We were each allowed to spend up to $100 to get something to repurpose into a household item.  The entries are fantastically creative. (You can vote for the project that you like best, or better yet, go to the Fall Home Show or place an online bid for your favourite piece.  All proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity to build more great homes for great families.)
Re: the sculpture above:
The first panel (far left) is a plain rectangle and is the first geometric thing I've made since my math debacle in Grade 10 (I got 11 out of 100 on my geometry final).  So I've officially made peace with geometry.  
The middle panel strays into a more organic shape, and the third panel is full-on entropy in the shape of a female form (or two lovebirds according to my Facebook friend Moe).  
 
P.S. Here's the 'Before' shot!
P1080902
I seriously love welding.  I bought a Hobart Handler 125 for about $300 a few years ago and it's become my favourite weapon of mass construction.  
IMG_3412
Last week I taught Oli, my niece-in-law, to weld.
Mag Ruffman and her niece Oli; welding lessons
Welding, the most popular activity at Ruffman reunions (besides eating)
I also gave my sister a few lessons last week and she went straight home and bought her own welder - a classy Lincoln package that included a helmet emblazoned with red flames!  She's making sculptures out of farm implements. 
Gillian on her first day with her new Lincoln MIG welder
A metal artist at work


 

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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie